Top Home Features Prospective Buyers Are Looking for Right Now
Believe it or not, vinyl flooring can help a home sell faster.
In the past couple of years, home buyers ran through the housing market like it was a rat maze, encountering obstacle after obstacle, frantically trying to outbid other bidders, retracing their steps, and often searching in vain for any house to purchase.
However, 2023 is already on track to be quite a different year for buyers. Active inventory growth continues to climb, and homes are spending longer on the market, compared to this time last year. And in the midst of a slower, less frenzied market, prospective buyers have time to breath, and stop and think about what's really important to them.
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We spoke with Amanda Pendleton, Zillow home trends expert, to discover the home features buyers are looking for most often. Pendleton looked at several factors when compiling the top features. “I’m considering their impact on a home’s sale price and days on market when mentioned in a listing description, and also how much more frequently they are being featured in Zillow listing descriptions this year compared to last year,” she says. When these features are included in the listing descriptions it implies that they're increasingly desired since they’re being utilizied to market the home to buyers, Pendleton explains.
Below, find the 11 top home features that prospective buyers are seeking out right now, according to Zillow—and confirmed by a handful of top realtors and designers.
2022 was the year of the drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was the 18th warmest year and the 27th driest year on record. In addition, some major reservoirs reached their lowest levels in recorded history.
“Drought-resistant landscaping and turf yards have surged in popularity as today’s home buyers seek out more sustainable, low-maintenance homes, especially in drought-prone regions,” Pendleton says. In fact, she notes that drought-resistant landscaping is being mentioned 146 percent more often in listing descriptions on Zillow compared to a year ago. And mentions of turf yards are up 70 percent.
Zillow’s research also found that homes with “turf” in their listing description can sell for 1.1 percent more than expected—and sell eight days faster than similar homes. “Homes with drought-resistant landscaping can sell nine days faster than expected,” Pendleton says.
This doesn’t surprise Jonathan Self, a real estate broker at Compass in Chicago. “Finding a yard with less maintenance and upkeep—that still looks attractive—is a major draw,” he says. While the Chicago market isn't struggling with drought issues, Self has seen new construction buyers negotiate AstroTurf lawns for in-town condos that have a yard.
Electric vehicle charging stations
According to The Wall Street Journal, the sale of electric vehicles in the U.S. jumped by two-thirds in 2022. As electric vehicles become more mainstream, Pendleton says charging stations are becoming a valuable selling feature. “EV charging stations are now showing up 131 percent more often in Zillow listing descriptions, compared to last year, and homes that have them can sell nearly 10 days faster than expected.”
This is a trend that Self has noticed as well. “Illinois is considering making EV charging a requirement for new construction homes,” he says, adding that there’s been a healthy debate regarding the pros and cons of this possible policy change. “I've seen my own clients start to factor this in as a concern when shopping for homes, especially when you live in a city and you might share a garage,” he says. “We lack standardized electric automobile charging plugs and this is one of the issues holding back this progress—for example, [the home seller] might have owned an electric BMW but the buyer drives a Tesla.”
You may have thought that shiplap was only popular in rustic homes, but Zillow data suggests otherwise. “Homeowners and builders seem to be adding this feature like crazy as exterior siding or interior wall paneling,” Pendleton tells us. In fact, she says the term is popping up 30 percent more often than last year in Zillow listing descriptions. “Homes mentioning shiplap in their listing description can sell for 2.6 percent more and nearly 4 days faster than similar homes.”
Other keywords related to modern farmhouse style are also trending up. “Board and batten paneling has a similar rustic aesthetic, and has grown in popularity as an alternative to the ubiquitous shiplap,” she says. “Board and batten is being mentioned 32 percent more frequently in listing descriptions than last year, and can contribute to a 1.6 percent sale premium.”
However, this trend isn’t popular with everyone. “I'd like to go on record as saying absolutely no one in Chicago is asking for this,” Self says. So, it may not be the wall treatment of choice everywhere, but it can make a difference in the right markets.
Quartz countertops are antimicrobial non-porous, so they resist mold and mildew and staining. Zillow saw the share of listings mentioning antimicrobial countertop surfaces increase by at least 44 percent this year compared to last year. “The pandemic changed the way people want to live, and brought a heightened awareness to health and wellness at home,” Pendleton says. “Listings that mention quartz countertops can sell for 2.3 percent more and nearly two days faster than expected.”
Realtor Keishla Quiles at The Fermin Group Real Estate Team with Century 21 Northeast in Andover, Massachusetts, believes that quartz countertops are the “it” item for this generation of buyers. “They’re looking for something that is durable and virtually maintenance free, and quartz countertops are beautiful and easy to maintain.” Plus, the options are almost limitless. Although quartz is a man-made product, Quiles says most of the materials used are natural, and there’s an unlimited range of designs and patterns. “While quartz countertops have one of the highest price tags on the market, they continue to be a top requested luxury that will for sure increase the value and appeal of your home for resale—and we see them staying for the long haul,” Quiles says.
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Matte black hardware and fixtures
Matte black is showing up 85 percent more often in Zillow listing descriptions, and Pendleton says today’s home buyers appear willing to pay more for it. Homes featuring matte black hardware or fixtures can sell for 2 percent more than expected.
“Matte black hardware and fixtures are taking center stage,” Jack Luciano of Jack and Raul Real Estate Group at Platinum Living Realty in Scottsdale, Arizona says. He adds that younger buyers, in particular, want this minimalist look in kitchens and bathrooms—in everything from lighting to shower heads.
And it’s easy to see why. “Matte black just adds a touch of elegance to whatever it touches,” explains Quiles. “Buyers want something that has a modern aspect, but is also a timeless look, and matte black is elegant, easy to maintain, and goes with everything.” In some areas, she says the trend is also toward a combination of black with other finishes, like black and gold, black and bronze, black and chrome, etc.
Smart home features
To no surprise, Zillow reveals that homebuyers, especially younger buyers, want their homes to be as smart as their phones and watches. “Smart home technology is rapidly evolving to meet this demand, making homes more energy efficient and lower maintenance,” says Pendleton.
Zillow reveals that smart lights, smart sprinkler systems and smart thermostats are all appearing at least 34% more often in listing descriptions than a year ago. “And when mentioned in a listing description, they all contribute to a home selling as much as 6 days faster than expected,” Pendleton reveals.
Self agrees that smart home features are popular, but also notes that some of it is likely to be portable. “People tend to take their tech – doorbells, audio equipment, and security systems - with them as they move.”In higher-end homes, he says it’s not uncommon to see tech used for window treatments. “I've seen very impressive tech in terms of air and water quality controls for the home as well.”
However, Self warns buyers against being seduced by impressive smart home features. “Technology evolves and changes so swiftly that you can often end up dating your home before you know it,” he says. “My advice is to proceed with caution and lean to things that can come with you when you leave.”
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Shaker cabinets are also having a moment. Pendleton says this trend is driven by traditional English kitchens, which are also defined by such elements as a stand-alone hutch, and a large island. “This timeless Shaker cabinet style is as popular as ever, appearing 55 percent more often in listing descriptions on Zillow, compared to last year,” she says.
But can they really make a difference in the buying process? Apparently, they can. Pendleton says shaker cabinets can help a home sell for 2 percent more and nearly 2 days faster than expected.
“Buyers are seeking out remodeled kitchens with simple, timeless, and versatile shaker cabinets, which have recessed panel doors and straight edges,” explains Raul Siqueiros of Jack and Raul Real Estate Group at Platinum Living Realty. “Additionally, since 2020, we are seeing more and more custom cabinets using reeded wood inserts, which are very reminiscent of the 1990s but increasingly becoming a hot trend for the 2020s."
Quiles notes that shaker cabinets are a popular kitchen choice among builders since they can fit in any home style. “You can easily dress them up or dress them down with endless color choices, all while keeping that timeless look,” she says.
Natural disaster protection
Extreme weather and storms took a major toll on the U.S. in 2022, and this fact hasn’t been lost on potential buyers. “As climate-related events become more frequent and more destructive, home buyers are willing to pay a premium for homes equipped with features designed to protect against a disaster,” says Pendleton.
Homes that have undergone a seismic retrofit to protect against earthquakes can sell for 2.4 percent more and 19 days faster than expected. “And homes featuring hurricane or storm shutters can sell for 1.4 percent more,” Pendleton says, adding that these features are also appearing at least 31 percent more frequently in listings compared to last year.
Luxury vinyl flooring
Vinyl flooring is not something you might not have expected to see on the list, but Zillow found that homeowners and buyers are taking a second look at vinyl flooring. “Luxury vinyl plank flooring, or LVP, can be a stylish and durable substitute for hardwood floors at a lower price point," Pendleton says. "It’s also a smart investment to consider if you have resale in mind and you’re looking to maximize ROI."
Homes with luxury vinyl flooring in the listing description can sell for 1.7 percent more and nearly 4 days faster than expected. And Zillow reveals that luxury vinyl mentions are also up 57 percent in listing descriptions.
“Whether your home is full of children or pets, luxury vinyl flooring is up for the challenge,” explains Nikki Klugh of the Nikki Klugh Design Group in Chula Vista, California. “Offering a waterproof and scratch-resistant alternative to hardwood floors while still providing a similar look and feel, luxury vinyl flooring is the perfect option for a busy household.”
Siqueiros agrees. “What’s under the buyer’s feet typically can weigh their decision, and luxury vinyl flooring is now at the top of the list,” he says. Aside from the ease of maintenance, and ability to get the look of hardwood without the cost, Siqueiros says they’re popular for another reason. “Placing the flooring in a herringbone pattern or other creative patterns is also a trend,” he says.
Not every homebuyer wants a swimming pool. But among those who do, Pendleton says saltwater pools are appealing. “They have lower chlorine levels—which means fewer chemicals, and less eye and skin irritation,” she explains.
And these higher-end pools are showing up 35 percent more often in listing descriptions on Zillow. “While they require a greater investment to install, they can contribute to a home selling for 2.1 percent more and 1 day faster than expected,” Pendleton says.
Siqueiros is definitely seeing this trend in Arizona as well. “With most of the homes we sell, having a pool helps, and saltwater pools entice buyers even more because they’re safer and easier to maintain,” he says.
Pendleton says homeowners and home buyers are gravitating toward calming, organic design elements that add age and character. “You don’t need to live in a 19th century villa or even have exposed brick or stone to embrace this look,” she says. A plaster or limewash finish can help you achieve this look easier and more affordably.
And according to Zillow, mentions of limewash in listing descriptions are up 55 percent over the past year, while listings that mention Venetian plaster can sell for 1.2 percent more than expected.
The trend makes sense to Klugh, who says she designs for her clients using their senses. “This method discovers which top two senses motivate my client the most and we add features to a room that speak to those senses,” she explains. And for those who are motivated by their sense of touch, Klugh says they love textured wall finishes. “This can generate visual interest, create character, and make a home feel even homier,” she says.
It's certainly not your mother’s faux textured walls, explains Luciano. “Textured plaster or shades of chalky stone are hot on the trending items buyers seek, and add a historic yet modern European flair, creating contrast and allure,” he says.
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